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Markov and Kostsitsyn scored 24 seconds apart as Montreal beats Tampa Bay 5-2

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Lightning might have hit rock bottom.

Andrei Markov and Andrei Kostsitsyn scored 24 seconds apart early in the third period, Cristobal Huet had 28 saves, and the Montreal Canadiens beat the slumping Lightning 5-2 on Thursday night. "We have zip for confidence," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said after the Lightning lost for the eighth time in 10 games.

"We can't give our problems to someone else. We need to mentally, first of all, start thinking, 'I need to make a difference. I need to regain my confidence here.' Hopefully a few guys start doing that, and maybe a good thing happens."

Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse and Alex Kovalev also scored for the Canadiens, who had lost two straight. Montreal is 12-6-2 away from home this season.

"On the road, we seem to play more relaxed and kind of play the game with nothing to lose," Kovalev said. "When we come back home, we try to overdue things. We try to do a little bit extra because family is in the building, and friends and all of our fans."

Vinny Prospal and Jan Hlavac scored third-period goals for the Lightning. Tampa Bay, tied with Washington for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference (33), has scored two goals or fewer during regulation in 10 of 11 games.

"This is pretty low," Lightning winger Martin St. Louis said. "This is as low as we've hit for a long time. It happens. You don't like it when it happens. You grow from it, and you battle though it. There's no doubt in my mind we'll come out of this."

Markov's goal 44 seconds into the third during a power play put Montreal up 4-0. Kostsitsyn made it a five-goal lead at 1:08.

"We wanted to go hard at them," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau. "We wanted to make sure that we put the pressure (on them). Keep the puck out of our zone and into their zone because that's where they're struggling."

Lapierre put the Canadiens ahead 1-0 during a 2-on-1 at 10:20 of the first. Tortorella used his timeout after Latendresse scored on the rebound to make it 2-0 with 7:12 left in the first.

Johan Holmqvist was pulled for the fourth time in five starts early in the second after allowing three goals on 11 shots. Holmqvist, who didn't play in the previous three games after Tampa Bay recalled rookie Karri Ramo from AHL Norfolk on Dec. 19, returned for the final 13 minutes of the game.

Holmqvist went to the bench after Kovalev's shot from the right circle deflected off Tampa Bay defenceman Filip Kuba for a 3-0 Montreal advantage 10 seconds into the middle period. Holmqvist was replaced by Ramo, who made several strong saves including one against Christopher Higgins on a short-handed breakaway.

Prospal had a rebound goal at 6:15 of the third. Hlavac broke a 17-game goal drought in the final minute.

Notes: Tampa Bay D Dan Boyle (wrist surgery) has been cleared to resume skating. There is no timetable for his return. ... Lightning G Marc Denis, who lost his starting role last season, has been a healthy scratch four straight games. Denis, is in the second season of a US$8.6-million, three-year contract, could soon be placed on waivers. ... Montreal RW Michael Ryder returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous three games. ... Canadiens D Patrice Brisebois (shoulder), LW Steve Begin (shoulder) and C Bryan Smolinski (knee) all remain sidelined by injuries. Brisebois and Begin could return in one to two weeks. Smolinski could miss another three weeks. ... Tampa Bay D Doug Janik assisted on Prospal's goal. It was his first point in 34 games.



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